2009 Harley-Davidson CVO Fat Bob - Personality Transplant

Harley-Davidson CVO Fat Bob

Harley's Fat Bob, which debuted last year, was the anti-cruiser: a stripped-down, bare-knuckle street fighter, or at least H-D's conception of one. With a beefy 16-inch front wheel, seemingly dual-sport inspired chunky tire treads and the double headlight, it was a slam dunk to be included in Harley's edgier Dark Custom marketing plan. If the Fat Bob had a persona, it would be a thug. Or a pitbull.

Well, it looks like the pitbull put on some lipstick. Or the thug tried on a sequined dress, garish lipstick, clear heels, and glitter. It's not a stretch to say that if Liberace was alive today, he might own this motorcycle. It's fabulous and butch all at the same time. Okay, we might be overstating it, but has there ever, in the decade of Harley's CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) project been a bike that less resembled its base model? In the past, just about all of the CVO (previously Screamin' Eagle)-branded bikes have been significantly different from the bike they derived from, but without an exception, they were enhanced versions that perhaps an average buyer of said model might have done on their own anyway. In the case of the Fat Bob, it's not enhancement, it's more like a reimagining. Raw, dark and dangerous becomes flashy, bright and brassy. We might be tempted to slam this bike and it's extra $10k worth of whistles, bells and baggage if it weren't for two things: a) Makeovers like this are what customizing is all about and b) It works so darn well.

In a world with ground-up custom machines that are easily accessible via cable TV, the CVO Fat Bob draws a crowd. Part of that is what a departure it is, both from itself and from current custom trends. While the Kool Kids are rockin' the flat paintjobs and stripped-down aesthetics, Mean Joe Average still has a big 'ol soft spot for gobs of chrome and flashy paint. There are still those in our business would be loathe to put a black motorcycle on the cover of a magazine (ahem, this issue), because nothing makes the non-rider pick up the rag like a bike painted like a beach ball.

Which is not to say the CVO 'Bob isn't tastefully done (despite our teasing). The truly twisted genius of the bike's design is that it takes what was a ride the Kool Kids might like and makes it into one that Mean Joe Average would swoon over, by doing something that a Kool Kid would never do: slapping on some flashy graphics and throwing the H-D Accessories Catalog at it.

"Throwing the catalog" might also be hyperbole, but the bike did gain 25 pounds from the more sedate standard Fat Bob. Obvious are the chrome covers, spacers, bracketry, forks, etc. Slightly more obscure are the details like braided steel lines, a custom pipe with a black painted header pipe (under the heat shields) for contrast, color matched frame and swingarm and the unique custom dash and faux suede seat. The bars are a more humane "flat track" style, low-rise bar, replacing the attitude-driven drag bar of the original, which also gained internal switch wiring and fattened to 1.25 inches.

The profile of the bike was changed with a lowered fork (compared to other Dynas), flattening the bike out, while the bike gained revised suspension spring rates and damping to do more with less travel. The result is a plush ride most of the time, with a tendency to bottom out on big dips and bumps.

Not all of the styling touches necessarily hit it out of the park: an associate compared the chin spoiler to a St. Bernard's rescue keg, while the very solid brake rotors/carriers obscure the cast aluminum black and chrome "Fang" wheels behind them. Don't worry, we know they're there.

The looks of the bike are abundantly obvious and you're going to either love them or be blinded by them, but its the overall feel of the bike with its plentiful power and crisp handling that really got our interest. The 110-inch Twin Cam motor (vs. the 95-incher found on most Big Twin Harley-Davidsons) is no fire breather, but it is perfectly matched to this 725 lb. bike to make it a real hoot to ride. In Harley's CVO ultra-heavy Ultra Classic Electra Glide, the 110 is just enough to get it out of its own way In the slightly slimmer CVO Road King, it's playful fun, while in this bike it actually feels like a worked big-bore motor. The unit itself is sprayed with a granite finish (differing from all other Harleys' black or polished-finish), and filled with H-D's own synthetic oil blend.

The 110, like any long-stroke engine, makes most of its power down low and likes to be short-shifted. H-D's Heavy Breather air cleaner and freer-flowing mufflers are reputed to help improve power as well, but if this were the case, shouldn't they come on all Harleys? The mufflers make for some soulful sounds that have to be close to the DOT-legal limit. In fact, we'd like to navely suggest that aftermarket pipes would be a waste of money on this bike, but you're probably not listening (or can't hear).

The Cruise Drive 6-Speed transmission is clunky, but positive, with a top gear made for puttin' down in the low revs for all legal highway speeds. A hydraulic clutch is employed to deploy a stiffer clutch spring than most Harleys (again, to deal with the larger motor). It has an engagement point practically on the grip, and is impossible to adjust. Perhaps the worst designed piece on the bike.

The Fat Bob's handling (mated to that sweet 110) is the crown jewel, and the key is the bobberish 16 inch front wheel and relatively light weight. The other light(ish) bike set up with a 16, the Fat Boy, is pretty fun as well, but with a 32-degree steering head angle (to the 'Bob's 29) and floorboards that like to drag, the 'Bob can hang it out a little more.

With a very neutral, relaxed riding pose, mid-length rides (at whatever speed) are easily done. The seat is slim and hard, but supportive, and the metal plate in the middle doesn't seem to screw with comfort too much. The natural-bend bars are neutral for just about anyone, while the forward controls tend to favor the tall. Plenty of comfort, in fact, to be able to rock a whole tank at 38 mpg (measured, unless you're Evan "WFO" Kay) and go for 150+ miles.

All these kind words are not to say this ride is without any warts (or surgery scars). There's one feature that's less than confidence-inspiring: when the bike gets hot, it turns off the rear cylinder at idle to keep heat under control. It's a nice thought, but it causes the bike to bounce as it plays the weird cadence of a single.

A refrain we as journalists all used to sing when it came to bikes like these, is that if you were going to buy all that stuff anyhow, it's totally worth the price of admission (in this case $25,299). However, H-D claims their market research suggests that the average CVO buyer spends an additional $10,000 on his bike, so it pretty well tosses our theory out the window. In any case, if you're down with rockin' it like Liberace, or if you like the odd dichotomy of a bobber reproduction blinged out with an extra 25 pounds of stuff, you might have to hurry to snap up one of the 2450 examples available for '09. Then again, times being what they are, you might pick one up for a steal.

'09 H-D CVO Fat Bob
Base Price/MSRP: $25,299
Colors: Yellow/Platinum (shown), Black/Quartz, Granite/Blue

Engine & Drivetrain
Engine Type: 1803cc, air cooled, 45-degree V-twin
Bore And Stroke: 102x111mm
Valve Train: pushrod OHV, 2 valves/cylinder
Compression Ratio: 9.15:1
Horsepower: 77.1hp @ 5000 rpm
Torque: 98.4 lbs.-ft. @ 3000 rpm
Fuel Capacity: 5 gal.
Fuel System: EFI, 44mm throttle body
Transmission/Final Drive: 6-speed, belt final drive

Rake/Trail: 29-degrees/ 5.53 in.
Front Tire: 130/90x16
Rear Tire: 180/70x16
Front Brake: dual four-piston w/floating 11.8 in. discs
Rear Brake: four-piston caliper w/floating 11.5 in. disc,
Front Suspension: 49mm telescopic fork, 4.33 in. travel, non-adjustable
Rear Suspension: single shock, 2.13 in. travel, preload adjustable
Wheelbase: 63.66 in.
Seat Height: 26.9 in.
Weight: 730 lbs.

2009 Victory Ness Signature Series Jackpot Takes On Harley's CVOs
If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, you might say that Victory has served up one hell of a compliment to The Motor Company. The kudos come courtesy of the Ness Signature Series-Victory's line of glittering production customs that, on the face, mimic Harley's CVO formula. They're limited edition machines, tricked out and completely high-end, but Victory has added its own personal twist on the exclusivity angle. Instead of employing a CVO design 'crew' to craft the metalwork like Harley does, the Ness bikes are concepted by Victory's in-house custom kings, father and son duo Arlen and Cory Ness.

The Ness bikes grew out of the family's openness to experimenting with Victory's "New American Motorcycle" concept; the first creations out of the studio were the Arlen Ness Editions in 2004, with the Cory bikes debuting in 2005.

Whereas both Nesses got a crack at the 'Pot for last year's Sig Series bikes, this year it's just Cory with the 2009 Cory Ness Signature Series Vegas Jackpot. The younger Ness has taken full advantage of the bike's headline change for 2009, a wider rear end. You can see it in the way he stretches sleek, flowing bodywork around that new, chunky 250 series rear tire-the same meat found on the 2009 Hammer, Hammer S and the standard Vegas Jackpot. And that LED taillight frenched into the trailing edge of the rear fender nicely punctuates the clean lines without ignoring DOT rules.

Of course, there's more lurking beneath the surface. Like Harley's CVO series, the Ness bikes get premium performance upgrades-things like the new 97hp Freedom 106/6 mill that was specially calibrated for the rip-snorting Hammer S (Harley stuffs the 110ci Screaming Eagle motor in all its 2009 CVOs) and a reengineered six-speed overdrive tranny. The Ness Jackpot's cylinders and heads don't look like your garden-variety steel lumps either-they're diamond-cut pieces with a unique, refined shimmer that betray the bike's upmarket status.

Those razor-sharp Landshark billet wheels also tie in nicely with the motorcycle's refined menace, but the '09 Ness Jackpot features a host of other top-shelf goodies as well. We're talking custom Pearl White and Metallic Purple paint with pinstripe graphics (designed by Cory himself), a chrome fork and swingarm, Ness handgrips, teardrop mirrors and engine covers, and a plush, one-piece hand-stitched leather seat-all pieces that are sure to appeal the high-end custom customer.

All those trick bits and limited edition exclusivity add up, though; both Victory Ness Signature Series rides are priced just below $25,000 (the Arlen Ness Vision retails for $24,999). Nevertheless, a Victory spokesman told us the Ness Editions are consistent sellers for the company and are considered to be the crown jewels in its custom cruiser lineup.

It makes sense when you look at the combination of refinement, technology and design the Ness bikes offer-especially when you consider what most custom-bike shops have available for under $40K. (Hint: Not much.)

In that context, these almost-one-offs seem like a pretty good deal.-Andrew Cherney

'09 Victory Cory Ness Vegas Jackpot

Base Price/MSRP: $24,499

Engine & Drivetrain
Engine Type: Air/Oil cooled 50 deg. V-Twin
Displacement: 106 ci/1731cc
Bore x Stroke: 101x108mm
Valve Train: SOHC, 4 valves per cylinder, hydraulic lifters
Compression Ratio: 9.4:1
Fuel System: Electronic Fuel Injection, 45mm throttle bodies
Transmission: Wet multiplate clutch, six speeds
Final drive: carbon fiber-reinforced belt

GVWR: 1171 lbs.
Dry weight: 649 lbs.
Overall length: 96 in.
Wheelbase: 66.3 in.
Seat height: 25.7 in.
Rake/trail: 32.9 deg./4.9 in.
Fuel capacity: 4.5 gal.
Front tire: 21 in. wheel, 90/90-21 Dunlop Elite 3 tire
Rear tire: 18 in. wheel, 250/40R18 Dunlop Elite rear tire
Front brake: 300mm disc, 4-piston caliper
Rear brake: 300mm disc, 2-piston caliper
Front suspension: 43mm telescopic fork, 5.1 in. travel
Rear suspension: Single damper, 3.0 in. travel, preload adjustable

Riding Positions
Evan Kay
5' 4", 162 Lb, 29" Inseam, Age 44
Are you responsible? Wear a navy blue suit to work? (that question is also for the male readers...) Go to sleep early? Obey the speed limits? Yes? Then this is not your motorcycle. Ignoring the looks for a moment-and they are not to be ignored-H-D did not slot a 110ci engine into this bike's frame for esthetic purposes. The max 114 lb-ft of torque is to GO! and to go in a hurry, rear tire squealing, engine racing, mothers covering their childrens' eyes and fathers looking at the ground in embarrassment at their shortcomings. You, the rider, just laugh your head off because you get it. Seriously-just look at this thing! Screaming paint work (unless you opt for the "safe" granite and blue finish) and blinding chrome from the axels to the mirrors, the CVO Fat Bob is saying, "Look at me-if you can turn your head fast enough as I streak down the road." Abundant, controllable power. Suspension that suspends and absorbs bumps. Stable, smooth handling. I love this thing. Really. Well, if you've got less than a 32 inch inseam (like me), it is a stretch to the footpegs. Maybe I could tie blocks to my feet like that kid in the Indiana Jones movie?

Jacket: Cycleport
Gloves: Cycleport
Helmet: Shoei